________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 35. . . .May 9, 2014


16 Things I Thought Were True.

Janet Gurtler.
Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Fire (Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books), 2014.
283 pp., trade pbk., $11.99.
ISBN 978-1-4022-7797-9.

Grades 8-11 / Ages 13-16.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

**** /4



He holds up his sandwich to take a bite. “Isn’t anyone allowed to be nice to you?”

I put the soda between us on the table and lean back on the couch, sigh, try to explain. “Sorry. It’s just. Since the video....”

He smiles. “I get it. And by the way, in case you didn’t notice, I’m not exactly Mr. Popularity around here.” He bites his sandwich and shrugs. “At least you’ll be seen talking to me in public.” He smiles again to show he’s joking, but I wonder if he is.

The confession warms me a little. “I have to figure out things with my mom and my ... birth father. And I usually use my break to get caught up with my friends, so I guess I’m a little edgy.”

“Your friends on there?” He gestures at my phone and raises his eyebrows. “You have a lot of people following you. I have, like, twenty.”

He has nineteen. But I don’t say that out loud. And I try not to judge him for it.

“Stop me if this is a crazy idea,” he says, “but I thought you might want to talk to someone, you know, in person.” I take a sip of soda and study the coffee table, trying to put my words together in a way that makes sense. It’s so much easier to get things right on Twitter.

Adam watches me, his expression calm, not rushing me or trying to fill in the silence.


When Morgan’s mom has a heart attack, all kinds of emotions come to the surface, including a desire for truth in their relationship. Morgan has never known who her father was, and her mother has steadfastly refused to give her his name. However, the medical crisis has left both of them vulnerable, and Morgan’s mom, at long last, tells her the name of her birth father and the fact that he lives in Victoria, British Columbia. Morgan is determined to meet him and confront him face to face about his decision to abandon her and her mom some eighteen years before. Two co-workers, Adam and Amy, volunteer to go along, and the search for Morgan’s father turns into a road trip adventure!

     Gurtler is a master at creating believable and authentic characters who immediately win the hearts of readers. Morgan rushes headlong into the road trip intent on finally finding her father yet without any real idea of just what might happen and how it will impact both of them. Adam is the boss at her summer job, and, on the surface, he seems both nerdy and overbearing, yet he offers to support her. Amy is the third member of the group, a chatterbox who often acts without thinking. However, she has a car and is more than willing to make the drive to Victoria. In the end, the three become close friends, glad to help one another in any way they can.

     The novel centres around learning what is true, as the title suggests. Several chapters begin with assumptions which Morgan has thought to be true, only to have them completely disproved as her life unfolds. For example, she has always thought, “In the end, people get what they deserve”, or “Parents only lie to their kids about Santa and the Easter Bunny.” How wrong these and her other assumptions turn out to be. Throughout the novel, various characters tell lies or simply omit important information, and readers see the impact. Gurtler’s characters often avoid the truth for what seem the very best of reasons, but the negative impact doesn’t change. Readers will confront questions of honesty and integrity, as well as forgiveness, along with the novel’s main characters.

     There are secondary themes in the novel also, including the trauma involved in finding a birth parent who has been absent for many years and who now has a completely new and separate life. As well, there are many comedic moments, particularly during the kids’ road trip, and some touching romantic scenes as the relationship between Morgan and Adam blossoms and matures. Technology is also a theme in the book as Morgan comes to understand the difference between Twitter followers/virtual friends versus real friendships. As well, she has still not been able to live down the embarrassment of a video of herself dancing in underwear, a video which it seems the entire world has seen.

     Gurtler creates an interesting world filled with warm, likable and very human characters. Her well-written novel balances drama, comedy, romance and adventure while also helping both her characters and her readers make the effort to separate truth from fiction and confront all of the platitudes which so many of us take for granted in our daily lives.

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson, a retired high school teacher-librarian and teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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